While the Apple Pencil is a brilliant accessory, there are plenty of ways Apple could improve it, and especially for iPad Pro users.
Making it dockable, like the Galaxy Note 20’s S Pen would be nice, for a start, but judging from a patent that has just emerged after being filed in November 2019, Apple has other more pressing ideas for its future direction.
The patent (opens in new tab) – innocuously called “Computer System With Color Sampling Stylus” – seems to show a new way for iPad Pro artists to take inspiration from the world around them. In this patent, the stylus has photodetectors built in, meaning users could point their Apple Pencil at something in the real world and have its color instantly replicated on screen, ready to doodle with.
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“Control circuitry may use the light-emitting devices to illuminate an external object while using the photodetectors to measure reflected light to determine the color of the external object,” the patent text explains.
The utility of this should be pretty obvious. While modern displays including that on the iPad Pro are capable of displaying millions of colors, actually tracking down the exact shade you want on a color picker can be tricky, even with hex codes. Being able to point at a colour and have it appear instantly on screen would be a huge help to creatives or designers looking to play with different shades.
But – and it’s a big but – a patent isn’t a guarantee that something is coming, no matter how promising the technology sounds on paper. Apple patents a lot of things – it has over 2,500 in its name in 2019 alone (opens in new tab) – and not all of them get used. Indeed, the company filed a patent that sounds remarkably similar to this all the way back in 2014 (opens in new tab), so it’s not like the concept is entirely new.
Maybe the company has found a way of making it cost effective enough to finally be ready for show time? We can but hope.